These adorable Easter Nest Donuts use a quick, homemade chocolate icing to make store-bought chocolate donuts look just like birds' nests! Fill the center of each "nest" with chocolate eggs and marshmallow Peeps for a fun Easter treat without a lot of effort!
What does a frosted donut need? MORE frosting you say? Yes, I totally agree! And if that frosting is sculpted into an adorable little nest, filled with cheery Easter candy and/or marshmallow Peeps? Then you've got yourself the most adorable Easter treat (or dare I say - breakfast?!) around!
All you need to make this quick, easy and festive Easter dessert is a box of store-bought chocolate frosted donuts, a few simple pantry ingredients, and some Easter candy. Get your kids involved for a fun and easy family activity!
Here's what you need to make these easy Easter Nest Donuts:
- Store-bought chocolate glazed donuts: I used Entenmann's brand donuts that come in an 8 pack. If you want to use a different brand or style, no problem! I would advise NOT to use a powdered donut however. Depending on how powdery it is, this could make it harder for the frosting to stick to the surface of the donut.
- Unsalted butter: you need 4 tablespoons (½ stick), and it should be completely softened. This makes it much easier to mix the frosting! If you're short on time, see the section below "How to quickly soften butter in the microwave."
- Powdered sugar: the base of any great buttercream (besides butter of course!)
- Milk: you could also use half and half or cream, whatever you have in the fridge.
- Vanilla extract: just a bit to help round out the flavor of the frosting
- Cocoa powder: this gives the "nests" a nice twiggy color.
- Peeps: these are an Easter classic! If you can't get Peeps in the store right now, you can just stick with chocolate eggs. Or really, any fun Easter candy!
- Candy-coated chocolate eggs: the type I used was Cadbury Shimmer Mini Eggs. But, any smallish sized chocolate egg would work, or even jelly beans? There are no rules, just use what you like 🙂
In addition to the ingredients above, you'll also need:
- a quart (or gallon) sized zip top bag, and
- wooden skewer (or, another round-shaped pokey thing?).
How to quickly soften butter in the microwave
Ok, so I mentioned in the Ingredients section above how it's super important to soften the butter before making the frosting. If you don't, it will be much harder to mix up the frosting and to tell what the true consistency will be once it reaches room temperature.
If you don't have 30 minutes or so to let your butter sit out at room temperature, here's what to do:
- chop the butter up into small cubes and place it into a small, microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave on 30% power for 10 seconds.
- Stir, and microwave again on 30% power for another 10 seconds.
- Repeat this process until the butter is softened, mine usually takes 2 - 3 turns.
- If it starts to slightly melt around the edges it'll still work ok, but don't go any further than that!
As I mentioned, this recipe uses a really simple buttercream with basic pantry ingredients. The most important element is to get the right consistency. And, you can even achieve that by mixing the frosting with an old-school whisk, no electrics required! Here are a few quick frosting tips for you:
Mixing by hand
There are a few reasons why this recipe lends itself well to hand mixing instead of using electric beaters (if you so choose):
- You only need to make a relatively small amount of frosting. So, it's more manageable to mix by hand than a large batch
- Because you are piping the frosting through very tiny holes rather than lathering it on the top of a cupcake, it's not that important to get a super fluffy, airy frosting (which is easier to achieve with an electric mixer).
- And, bonus: whisking by hand makes it very doable to have your kids help with this part! (I'm picturing my 3 year old wielding a spinning hand mixer with frosting being flung about the room - no thank you!!).
In order to make it easier to mix by hand, I like to add the powdered sugar and milk into the butter bit by bit, rather than mixing all the powdered sugar in first and then adding the milk. Doing it this way will really save your hand strength!
If you are going to whisk it by hand, it's even more important that the butter is fully softened. If you don't have time to let the butter come to room temperature on its own, see the above section "How to quickly soften butter in the microwave."
The correct consistency you are looking for is firm but supple - i.e not crumbly and stiff, but not goopy. If the frosting is too stiff, it will be difficult to pipe, and if it's too soft, it won't hold it's shape well. See the above picture for a good visual of what I mean.
Making adjustments to the frosting
Buttercream frosting is pretty forgiving. If you add in a little too much powdered sugar and it's too stiff, just mix in a couple drops more milk. Or, if it's too wet, just sprinkle in a bit more powdered sugar, it's that easy!
The key, however, is to make SMALL changes! A few drops of milk at a time can make a big difference. I can't tell you how many times I've splashed in a glug of milk to correct a too-thick buttercream and then ended up with frosting that's too wet. Keep over-correcting like that and you end up with a gallon of frosting! (I guess that wouldn't be the worst thing.)
How to make the chocolate nests
So, once you've mixed up the chocolate buttercream, here are the basic steps to making these adorable little Easter nest donuts:
- Pre-step: spread your donuts out onto a sheet of parchment paper.
- Grab yourself a quart-sized zip top bag and a wooden skewer. I originally tried using a sandwich bag for this, but it was too thin and it sprung a few leaks! If you don't have a quart-sized bag, you can use a gallon-sized one.
- Load up the frosting in the bag. I found the easiest way to do this was to form my non-dominant hand into a cup shape and tuck the bag inside, folding the rim over my hand. Then grab a big wad of the frosting on a rubber spatula. Squish the frosting glob down inside the "cup." Repeat until all the frosting is in the bag.
- Squish all the frosting down to one corner and roll up the top of the bag and seal, squeezing out as much air first as possible.
- Twist the top of the bag so the frosting forms a firm cone shape in the corner. Then, with the wooden skewer, poke a small hole in the corner of the bag. There may be a little air pocket there - no worries, this will release once you poke the first hole. (If you've got kids helping, you may want to do the actual "poking with a stick" part for them!)
- Continue poking about 8 - 10 holes close together around the corner of the bag. I like to make some larger holes by poking the skewer all the way through to the thickest part of the skewer, and some smaller ones, by poking just the tip through. This gives a more natural texture to the nests.
- Give the tip a little squeeze and notice how the frosting is extruding. Add some more holes or widen some holes by poking the skewer in deeper if needed. (Or, if you're like me, just start squeezing it onto the donuts and then realize you need to make adjustments - oops!)
- Once you're happy with how the frosting is coming out of the holes, go ahead and squeeze the frosting out onto the tops of the donuts in a circular pattern. Continue to layer on the frosting until you're happy with the coverage and texture. You can create straight lines, wavy lines, squiggly lines, whatever you like!
- After you've created your frosting nests, fill the centers with whatever kind of Easter candy you like - a single Peep or a cluster of chocolate eggs.
Making ahead and storage
I actually don't recommend making the donut nests much ahead of time. They will look the most beautiful and taste the freshest if you eat them right away, especially if you've added the Peeps - no one likes a stale Peep (or maybe someone out there does? If so, you do you!).
You could make the nests an hour or two ahead of time and leave them out at room temperature, tightly covered (hopefully in a container with high enough sides so the frosting doesn't get mushed!). If you go this route, just know the buttercream will form a very thin crust on the outside, but should remain soft on the inside. The longer you leave the donuts out, the less soft the frosting will be.
Making the frosting ahead of time
While I don't recommend making these Easter Nest Donuts much in advance, you CAN prepare the buttercream ahead of time. Just keep it tightly covered in the fridge, for up to 3 - 4 days. Before you are ready to use it, let it come to room temperature and give it a good whisk. Then you should be ready to start making some nests!
Ok, I know I just said to serve these fresh. But, maybe you have some leftovers you still want to enjoy! Then what?
If you do have leftovers, I recommend storing them in an air-tight container in the fridge, and then letting the donut come to room temperature before enjoying. Add a fresh Peep on top if you need to! I would eat any leftovers by the next day; at a certain point, there is no saving a stale donut I'm sorry!
A few last tips
- As you can see from this picture above, I had some excess frosting after making my 8 donuts. So, you could probably make a few more than 8 with this batch of frosting. However, I didn't really frost the sides of my donuts, so you could end up using more if you want a more full coverage look.
- After you decorate the donuts, I recommend using a spatula if you need to move them - this helps to prevent your fingers from mushing the frosting on the sides and keeps any candy from falling out if your donuts have larger holes.
I hope you enjoy making this quick and easy Easter treat with your family. If you’ve tried making these Easter Nest Donuts, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments section, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more delicious recipes from Nibble and Dine!
And if you are looking for recipes to round out your Easter meal (because we can't just eat donuts all day - I guess!) I also have a lot of good side dish recipes that would be great for Easter. Here are some of my favorites!
- Easy Honey Orange Glazed Carrots: sweet but not too sweet. Starts the cooking process in the microwave to save time!
- Creamy Tomato Cucumber Salad: a simple and flavorful salad with a creamy, tangy mayo and yogurt-based dressing.
- Bacon Blue Cheese Pasta Salad: this pasta salad features tons of bacon and blue cheese, plus broccoli and green onion (so it's healthy, right?)
An easy and quick Easter treat that the whole family can help with! Decorate store-bought donuts with a simple homemade frosting to make "nests" you can fill with marshmallow Peeps and chocolate eggs.
- 8 store-bought chocolate glazed donuts (see note 1)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk or cream (approximate amount)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
- assorted Peeps and small candy-coated chocolate eggs
- 1 quart sized zip top bag (gallon-sized bag can be substituted)
- 1 wooden skewer
- Sift the powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder only if they are very lumpy (measure first, sift second!). Set aside.
- Place the softened butter into a medium-sized bowl. With either a whisk or hand beaters, mix the butter well until it is smooth and slightly fluffy.
- Add the cocoa powder and about ½ cup of the powdered sugar to the bowl; whisk or beat until smooth. Incorporate the vanilla and a few drops of the milk. Continue to whisk or beat in the remaining powdered sugar in small amounts, alternating with a few drops of the milk, until all the powdered sugar has been incorporated and the frosting is smooth and pliable but still holds its shape. You may end up needing a little more or less milk than the 2 tbsp. called for. (If your frosting ends up too thick or too thin, see note 2!)
- Spread the donuts out onto a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Place the frosting into a quart-sized zip top bag. Press down the frosting to one corner of the bag. Squeeze out as much excess air as possible from the bag and seal it. Twist the top of the bag so the frosting forms a firm cone shape in the corner of the bag.
- With the wooden skewer, poke 8 - 10 small holes, close together, around the corner of the bag containing the frosting. You can make the holes smaller or larger by either poking all the way through to the thickest part of the skewer, or just using the tip of the skewer. Adjust the frosting pattern by widening some holes if needed, or adding more.
- Pipe the frosting onto the donuts in a circular shape until you are happy with the appearance of the "nests."
- Fill each donut with a marshmallow Peep or chocolate eggs.
- Serve immediately (recommended), or store at room temperature for 1 - 2 hours, tightly covered. Refrigerate any leftovers, tightly covered, for up to 1 day.
- I used Entenmann's brand of chocolate glazed donuts that come in an 8 pack. If you have 12 donuts, just make 1.5 times the frosting recipe!
- If your frosting ends up too runny or too stiff, don't worry, here's what to do: For too thin frosting, just sprinkle in a small amount of extra powdered sugar (start with about 1 tbsp.). Whisk that in and add a little more if needed, until the frosting holds its shape well on the whisk or beater. For too thick frosting, add only a couple drops of extra milk at a time, whisking or beating in between, until the correct consistency is achieved. A very small amount of liquid can change a lot, so go slow! For a visual reference, see the picture in the blog post under the subsection "Frosting consistency."
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